Someone posted this image on Facebook today and it reminded me of my childhood, so I thought I would give you a little book excerpt.
This is from Chapter 17 – “Homeless at Fifteen”. I actually named that chapter after a show that I watched called James at Fifteen, except James wasn’t homeless, I was.
Just before this excerpt, my parents were guilted into letting me back in the house, we actually lived in a trailer park. Even though it wasn’t technically a house, it was our home.
“My mother lectured me about how much I hated my step-father. She would always tell me that even though he is not my real father, he is still my father. Her exact words were “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” It made me sick that she would tell me that because he was not special at all. I don’t consider a child abuser to be special, or to be a real dad. She gave me that lecture so many times in my life and it pissed me off every time. What pissed me off even more was that my sisters would give me the same lecture, as if they had any right to.
“George came outside to talk to me about respect. He told me that I needed to earn his respect because he had no respect for me. Well, back at’cha fella! I told him that I had no respect for him so we were even. He told me that I had to respect him and I told him that I didn’t think I did. I told him that when he stops punching and hitting me and yelling at me for nothing, then I might respect him, but I don’t think that will ever happen. This conversation didn’t go as well as he had planned. Him telling me that I had to respect him no matter what was bullshit to me because he never once in my life gave me any reason to respect him.
“He thought that I was out of control, but I think what was out of control was how they thought of me. All of the things that they thought I did that I didn’t really do was what lost their respect. All of the smear campaigns against me from my sister and from George himself had made me the enemy and there was never anything I was going to do to change anyone’s minds.
“He deserved my respect as an elder, but that was it. He lost my respect when I was a baby the first time he hit me. As far as I was concerned, he didn’t deserve my respect. As far as I am concerned to this very day, there is no respect earned from either one of us and I don’t expect that will ever happen.”
I would never tell someone to disrespect their elders, or to be disrespectful to their parents, but you can’t help how you feel about someone when all they do is embarrass you, beat you, yell at you and treat you like a second class citizen day-in and day-out your whole life.
Respect is definitely earned and it goes both ways. You can’t expect your child to respect you when all you do is treat them like garbage. If you show your child the respect that they deserve, then they will show you the same respect that you also deserve.